Fun stuff to do with the new Google Earth URL

This week Google released a new version of Google Earth that runs in the browser. One aspect of this is that it now has a URL that changes as you change the view. Today, we are having a look at this URL and what you can do with it.

Links
The simplest way to utilise the URL is with links. Simply find a location of interest, copy the URL and use it in a link. This is exactly the same as you would do with Google Maps. So, for example, here is a link to the Eiffel Tower. This includes state such as what is being looked at, what information pages are open, etc. However, it cannot be used, at this time, to share your own content.

It is important to remember that the new Google Earth is only currently available in Chrome on the desktop (see this post if you are having trouble getting it to work in Chrome) and as an app on Android. So, links, like the one above, require the user to open it in either Chrome desktop, or, on mobile, to have the Google Earth app installed and select to open it in that (which does work nicely).

Embedding
It is also possible to embed a location in a web page using either the <embed> tag or the <iframe> tag. Simply set the ‘src’ attribute to the URL of the location you wish to show. Again, the result will only be visible to users with Chrome Desktop. If you are viewing this page on another browser or mobile you will probably just see a blank space below.

Sadly, we didn’t find a way to dynamically change the URL without reloading the iframe – otherwise we would have had an API in the making.

We did manage to embed Google Earth in a placemark, but it wouldn’t load beyond the initial splash screen.

A Google Earth inception moment. Google Earth in a placemark.

Parts of the URL
If you understand how the URL works, you can achieve certain views not possible using ordinary mouse navigation. A typical URL looks something like this:

https://earth.google.com/web/@48.858,2.294,146.726a,666.616d,35y,0h,45t,0r/data=KAI

What we have identified so far:
The first two numbers are latitude and longitude. The next numbers end with a single letter and are as follows:
a: altitude of the location you are viewing.
d: distance of your eye from the point being viewed.
y: the field of view.
h: height exaggeration. [ Update: h: is actually ‘heading’. Thank you to GEB reader Tyler for the correction (see comments)]
t: the ’tilt’ or the angle you are viewing at with 0 being straight down, 90 being horizontal and >90 looking up. You can even go past 180 for some interesting views (see links below).
r: the rotation of the view.

The last section starting with /data= can include a long string of characters relating to any information windows you have open, or it may simply have ‘KAI’ which means ‘rotate clockwise around the point being viewed’. If anyone finds out how to rotate counter clockwise, please let us know in the comments.

For some mind bending experiences try:
Exaggerated height and large field of view
Upside down effect using an angle over 180.
A negative distance and high angle to pan across the horizon

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.



Comments

  1. I hope that embedding thing is used sparingly. Like the Google Earth Web version in general, It’s an obscene resource hog, Just loading this page caused Chrome to grab an extra 600MB of working memory and nearly brought this PC to its knees, thanks to all the memory paging. It would be a good thing if they stopped that embed from loading as soon as you load the page, better to make it optional..

  2. It would be nice if KML content could be included in the URL as a way to share it.

  3. Thanks for your updates on these new capabilities. I’ve been waiting for the webGL version since they depreciated the API. Keep up the great for on the blog – I appreciated it!

  4. Do you think it will take a long time before they enable you to share your own KML content?

  5. I have to say that this is quite a let-down for me the more and more things we become aware of. I get exactly why Google (the company) has done it – huge amount more unilateral control and future opportunity/capability for monetization. One step forward, seven backward.

  6. I have a correction. The “h” URL parameter isn’t for height exaggeration, it’s for the heading just like in Google Maps when in Earth mode. I cover a few other things you might want to check out over in this post: https://www.reddit.com/r/GoogleMaps/comments/668hmy/tips_tricks_for_the_new_google_earth_hints_of/

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